Mursi condemns "thugs," stands by controversial decree
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi defended the recent decisions of the Islamist-led government in a recorded speech aired on Thursday, accusing his opponents of having hired thugs during protests for the past several days.
“The will of the people cannot be expressed by angry crowds,” Mursi said.
“To those who oppose me with dignity, I state clearly and openly: we respect your freedom of expression,” he added. “But I cannot tolerate any killing or vandalism with premeditation, to intimidate unsuspecting civilians or to incite subversion.”
Mursi accused opponents affiliated with the regime of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak of paying thugs and handing them weapons to spread havoc throughout Egypt.
“This cannot go unpunished,” he warned.
The president stood by his controversial decree of November 22, which grants him autocratic powers, claiming that it would only be used in matters of national sovereignty, and that its validity would expire once a constitution is voted upon.
“I truly meant by this decree to arrive at a point to complete the constitution and have a referendum for the great people of Egypt to have their say,” he said. “We will respond to the will of the people.”
Mursi also addressed criticism of the constitution which was approved by the constituent assembly on Friday, stating that disagreements were acceptable, but only in the context of “peaceful demonstrations” – as long as said demonstrations were not “hindering production, slowing traffic and threatening civilians.”
He also called for judges – who have said they would not supervise the December 15 referendum – to “continue its duty.”
Mursi said he would host a national dialogue on Saturday with members of the government, opposition leaders and religious figures.